Today I was lucky enough to attend Collaborate, a UX conference organised by my employer, Nomensa. Without exaggeration or lie, it was a great day with quality speakers imparting wisdom and insight by the bucketload.
I used Twitter as my notebook throughout the day, and for the first time I really ‘got’ the value of tweeting at a conference. Collectively posting thoughts, quotes and photos under the same hashtag results in a kind of shared diary that’s really quite magical. (Here’s a link to the conference hashtag.)
Below I’ve listed a single thought or idea that stuck with me from each of the eight speakers. These don’t necessarily represent the key themes or take-homes from these speakers’ talks, they’re just things that stood out to me.
(I’ve paraphrased heavily and have added my own interpretive elaborations.)
Nick Finck – The nuances of UX
There are infinite intangible (and uncontrollable) variables that contribute to the subjectivity of a user’s experience. We need to remember this, because it means that we can’t design a user experience, we can only design for it.
David Peter Simon – Representing information across channel
Some of David’s ideas reminded me of Alan Watts’ writings about language shaping the way we think.
“We seldom realize, for example that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.” – Alan Watts
We need to be mindful of the language we use to discuss problems to avoid being unconsciously constrained (or forced towards a wrong / sub-optimal solution).
Joshua Marshall – Empathy as a core feature
If you’re designing something that nobody really wants to use (e.g. a government website), simplicity is key. Do as much work for your users as you can. Ditch ego, ditch vanity and focus on user needs.
Simon Norris – Digital first: A philosophy
My choice nugget from Simon’s talk neatly captures an idea that Nick Finck also touched upon – that users’ experiences don’t switch off. They extend between and beyond screens. Digital transcends devices / technology.
Maya Middlemiss – The users’ experience of user experience
I’m a great believer in applying what we do to what we do, i.e. applying our methodologies, tools and expertise to our own processes in order to improve the way we work.
Maya highlighted a great opportunity for us to do this by giving us candid views into the worlds of user research participants and their experiences of taking part in our research. We need to consider the experiences we foster for our participants, just as we do for our users.
Something as small as offering a cup of tea can make a huge difference.
Dan Healy – …Engaging millennials online
If you’re tailoring your written content to a particular audience (for example, under 18’s) be scientific and don’t rely on preconceptions or (gasp) stereotypes. There are tools out there to help you write at the right level.
Ben Bywater – UX research: from full fat to lean
Ethnographic research is a great tool for making sense of the proliferation of contexts made possible by a multi-device world.
The more devices people have, the more weird and wonderful ways they’ll think of to use them, and use them together. Hacks, workarounds and cross-device usage are hard to uncover by just talking to someone.
I wrote a blog post about this topic a few months ago.
Thomas Wendt – The broken worldview of experience design
This idea ties in with David’s thoughts about language subconsciously shaping the way we think.
We often think of a problem and its solution as being a dichotomy, but the line between them is blurred and they overlap. Defining (and testing) solutions often helps us better understand the problem.
Today was a good day that left me feeling inspired and excited to apply some of these ideas to my work. Just what you want from a conference really.
It was also nice to hear the word empathyused so often. As UXers I don’t think we use that word often enough. We are professional empathisers after all.